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A Brutal History of Aggression Towards Minorities in Times of Crisis
“I think, therefore I am”- Rene Descartes
What is a person? Perhaps an abstract description of what man is - is that we’re merely perspectives incased in a fleshy material. Perspectives which have been shaped by other perspective mind’s reasons and thoughts in the state we’ve been birthed. As others judge an individual base on physical presence or social acts, it’s irrefutable that one must perceive themselves through their own rational and thoughts. So reasonably, as most individuals catalog themselves as a certain ethnicity, it stands to reason that in their thoughts they identify themselves as such, which is their natural right to judge things and express themselves as they would see fit. Though influenced by one’s own ethnicity or faith, it’s irrefutable that each one of us is an individual unlike any other. In a diverse state, it’s certain that factions of differing ethnicities are present, but usually with a specific race predominately inhabiting such a state. The minorities of these states, individual which stand apart from the majority either ethically or philosophically are deemed members of functioning society if they succumb to the culture of which the majority of the populace approves of. With any culture created by people, it does not need the approval of a government, but government can influence the culture within its respected realm and possibly beyond that. So for instance if the institution in control of a state acts aggressively and or warlike, values of aggressiveness are more than likely bound to seep into the culture of a society, and could very likely affect the minority in more drastic ways than the majority. The way one treats their enemies, sets a future precedence on how they interact with anyone else who disagrees with them.
Whether it’s the prosecution of Jews in Christian Europe, the lynching to African Americans in the South, or the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda, the minority in these cases suffer due to the bias of a society and the civil misconduct which is allowed to proceed unchecked in eras from which fear and blame run through the culture of a particular society. There have been several examples throughout history that when the majority of populace feels oppressed economically or betrayed in some fashion, prejudices formulate that misdirected the anger of the masses inwardly towards the minorities of their realm, when in all actuality the betrayal of which the majority feels can be attributed to a deeper external problem that affects their society.
- Minorities in Europe: In the High Middle Ages the Catholic Church put high penalties on Christians leading money on interest; this of course excluded those who weren’t concerned with cannon law a.k.a Jewish money lenders. This western costume could be attributed to establishing the derogatory notion that Jews are a greedy race of individuals, and therefore devious and untrustworthy because they dealt in collecting debts. As Europe entered the renaissance era, the Spanish inquisition, developed soon after the turbulent times of war and running the Moors out of Spain, helped create a social superstition that Jews had the intention of corrupting those of the Christian faith. This superstition based mostly in Catholic rhetoric, helped reinforce the preconception that Jews were devious individuals. It’s almost five hundred years later, after years of animosity was left to fester, that Jews became the scapegoat of Nazi propaganda, giving the German people a member of society they could blame for the disparity in their own lives. What followed would notoriously become known as the holocaust.
- Minorities in North America: In the aftermath of the American Civil War, its southern states were in a state of ruin. Those who had once been slaves had been freed and economic disparity ran rampant due to the shear destruction of infrastructure at the behest of Union forces. As before the war there had been a lack respect for the African slave in the south, once freed, hatred and blatant racism became the forefront of many of the white land owning members of the south. In retaliation to their loss, and arguably attributed to their irrational state of being, the formation the Ku Klux Klan sought retribution of what they lost by instilling fear and murdering blacks.
- Minorities in Africa: Rwanda is an interesting case as the Tutsi, which is the minority, had attained a monarchical dominance in the 18th century. The very fact that this minority had once held power over a nation mostly made up of Hutu, lead to the inevitable clash between groups. The resentment felt by this historically farming class people, when entering the modern era of politics and access to information, led to the genocide of anywhere to one to two million Tutsi people. Instead of contributing the brunt of the blame to European colonialism, which played a large part of Tutsi dominance for a time, one could argue that social animosity developed out of direct interaction between Tutsi and Hutu rather than the foreign influences which used the countries “sovereign” powers as a middle man to impose their will.
Baruch Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher with Jewish-Portuguese ancestries, advocated an individual’s right to reason and expression, believing that because the state is powerless to control such acts, it should reframe from trying so as it would be impossible. Moralizing religious/ideological tolerance, Spinoza’s universal stance can be applied to tolerance when comes to people of different ethnicities within the state. “In his view, the state’s true strength and stability depends on the willingness of citizens to identify with, participate in, and support it.”(Theological-Political Treaties). If particular group feels neglected by the authorities in charge, than the state is left with factions of citizens who resent and perhaps may seek retribution against that very authority or whatever the neglected parties feels is the primordial issue plaguing them. Everyone knows that government institutions are ran by individuals, and understanding that no individual is perfect; any government is susceptible to moral failure. Through true toleration of everyone within a society who doesn’t act against The HONORABLE LAWS of a state, and understanding that everyone is an individual in their own right, a nation of diverse opinions can attain perspectives that would otherwise be shrouded by personal biases. “The principle that society may rightly demand of the individual submission with respect to actions but not with regard to his or her desires, thoughts, opinions and conversation, meant that men should also be free to express their views in print.” (Theological-Political Treaties). As long as the state acts honorably in respects to the perspective of its citizens and does not enact disingenuous regulations on them, it is the right of the state to demand submission of its citizen in respect to particular actions. Though when an act of hostility, abroad or self inflicted is performed by or subjugated on the state, public opinion searches for an identity it can blame. If a culture of prejudice towards any ethnic group of faith is present, tunnel vision is fated to lead the majority of a populace to seek retribution through bigotry trends. Tolerance and the understanding that everyone is an individual is key if we truly want to see the real issues plaguing our societies.
Israel, Jonathan, ed. Theological-Political Treaties. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print